Tyson and women: a violent past Rape charge latest in string of incidents

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It was the fall of 1986 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and a booming left hook by Mike Tyson in the second round had sent Trevor Berbick bouncing across the canvas like a flat rock skipping across a pond.

There was no need to count. The crowd wildly applauded Tyson, who, at 20, had become the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history.

Veteran trainer Angelo Dundee, after dragging Berbick back to his corner, was asked who or what could keep Tyson from enjoying a long reign as champion.

"A woman," said Dundee.

Dundee's words proved prophetic. A stormy marriage and messy divorce from actress Robin Givens apparently contributed the shocking loss to James "Buster" Douglas in Tokyo in February 1990.

During the past five years, Tyson has fathered two children out of wedlock and been charged with harassing at least a dozen women. Now, with an opportunity to regain his crown from undisputed champion Evander Holyfield on Nov. 8, his very freedom is at stake.

Earlier this month, he was indicted by an Indianapolis grand jury, charged with raping an 18-year-old Miss Black America contestant in July. Tyson and the promoters plan to go through with the fight, with the trial not expected to begin until late January. If found guilty, he faces a maximum penalty of 63 years.

Appearing at his bail hearing Sept. 11, Tyson proclaimed his innocence, telling reporters: "I didn't hurt anyone. I love women. My mother is a woman. I respect them, as well."

Tyson and his promoter, Don King, say that the former champion, because of his wealth and fame, has been an easy target for celebrity-seeking women.

Said King: "Everyone wants a piece of Tyson. And these girls -- it's like Andy Warhol said, 'Everyone is going to have their 15 minutes of fame.' "

But Tyson -- who was unavailable for comment late last week -- has a track record of violence against women since his days as a pre-teen street hoodlum in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Elderly women were his favorite target back in Brooklyn. As he said in a Sports Illustrated profile three years ago: "If a kid knew his mom was going out with money and didn't want to steal it himself, he'd tell me where she was going, what time. I'd wait for her and rob her, and then we'd split it.

"I did evil things," Tyson said, "but my heart was always pure."

There were always excuses offered for the criminal behavior of Tyson, committed to reform school in Johnstown, N.Y., at age 13 and branded a hard-core case.

His actions were attributed to poverty, the absence of a father, a speech defect and lack of adult guidance. Most recently, King has been a scapegoat for Tyson's mounting problems.

"I'm saddened, but not surprised by what has happened to Mike," said Bill Cayton, Tyson's estranged manager.

"Check all of King's fighters. They all find trouble. It is the kind of negative atmosphere King fosters and creates. Mike has tried to break his ties with King, but he is like a captive with a terrorist. He can't escape and soon falls under the kidnapper's spell."

Cayton said Tyson was kept "under control" when he was managed by the team of Cus D'Amato, Jim Jacobs and himself. D'Amato, who served as Tyson's surrogate father and trainer, and Jacobs are dead. Cayton's involvement now is limited to taking 20 percent of Tyson's earnings until his contract with the former champion expires in February.

"We tried to establish an atmosphere for good behavior and corrected his faults," said Cayton. "Over a 2 1/2 -year period, there were a few incidents, but nothing of a major nature."

If that was the case, it may have been only because D'Amato could control negative publicity around Catskill, N.Y., where he was respected for having previously directed Floyd Patterson and Jose Torres to world boxing titles.

"Everyone likes to point to King as the villain, but the guys before him weren't interested in making Tyson into a great citizen either," Teddy Atlas, a former D'Amato training aide, was quoted in The National.

Atlas told The New York Times: "Cus would say, 'Mike is from a special situation and has to be [handled] with more sensitivity.' Cus was a good man, but only human. Money meant nothing to him, but he wanted another champion.

"We had Mike in a time capsule in Catskill, stacking the deck for him to become a champion without any outside influences. But compromises were being made. Put up a house too fast, and it can come back to haunt you when a strong wind comes along.

"Cus allowed Mike to think you can cover things up with friends in the press, radio and police department," Atlas said. "He was showing him ways to escape. The way of dealing with it was to cover up, put a Band-Aid on it. It was a lesson to Mike, who, with his mentality, figured he could get away with things."

Torres said in The National: "Yes, Mike has been brainwashed by King, but first he was brainwashed by Cus -- as I was. Cus had values, but never finished the job with Mike. He worked too hard on making him a champion first."

As a teen-ager, Tyson would sit at D'Amato's knee, learning the lessons of life, the old man constantly preaching that brains, not brawn, were the key to success in and out of the ring.

Explaining his handling of Tyson, D'Amato once said: "People who grow up in a rough area have to go through a number of experiences in life that are intimidating and embarrassing. These experiences form layer upon layer over their capabilities and talents. So, your job as a teacher is to peel off these layers."

But D'Amato's careful grooming apparently could not kill the Brooklyn bully in Tyson.

There were reports of Tyson's assaulting teachers, leading to his expulsion from Catskill High in 1982 and the hiring of private tutors by co-manager Jacobs.

Even more disturbing were Tyson's sexual escapades in Catskill, with one incident leading to Atlas' dismissal by D'Amato.

As town resident Fred Chetti told The New York Times' Phil Berger in his biography of Tyson, "Blood Season": "There was an incident in 1982, involving Teddy's sister-in-law, who was 15. She claimed Tyson, then 16, tried to put his hands on her in school."

Atlas reportedly went to D'Amato's boxing gym above the Catskill police station and threatened Tyson with a gun.

He would not confirm the presence of a gun, but Atlas said: "I was prepared to go all the way. I wasn't worried about what Tyson might do to me. I had to do what I had to do. Mike had breached an area that was very disrespectful and demeaning to a human being."

After the deaths of D'Amato and Jacobs, Tyson became more uncontrollable. He apparently became as proud of his sexual conquests as he was of his explosive knockouts.

Tyson once boasted to Torres of having had sex with 24 women during a weekend spree in Philadelphia with his friend, Rory Holloway, who now serves as his co-manager.

"I like to hurt women when I make love to them," Torres quotes Tyson in his book, "Fire and Fear." "I like to hear them scream with pain, to see them bleed. It gives me pleasure."

These horror stories were later recounted by several of the abused women, including his former wife, Givens.

Before Tyson unified the heavyweight title by beating Tony Tucker in August 1987, he took Givens to the Manhattan apartment of Steve Lott, then his training camp coordinator. During the evening, Lott's neighbors called the doorman, complaining of sounds of fighting. It was Tyson pummeling his soon-to-be wife.

"Man, I'll never forget that punch," Torres said Tyson told him later. "She really offended me and I went bam. She flew backward, hitting every wall in the apartment. That was the best punch I've thrown in my life."

Apparently, it was not the only time Tyson used Givens as a punching bag. Her sister, Stephanie Givens, a tennis pro, told Newsday that Robin lived in constant fear. She had witnessed a number of the couple's mismatches in spring 1988, when Robin was filming a television series in Los Angeles.

"When you're around Mike, you do live in fear," Stephanie Givens said. "He's like a bomb; he can just explode. He knew how to hit her [Robin Givens] without causing any real damage. . . . He's the type of person who feels he's Mike Tyson, he can do whatever he wants."

In the past, private negotiations and outside settlements with women kept Tyson out of court and free to pursue his boxing career. But, now, this human time bomb is ticking louder than ever.

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